Angels to wait on Ohtani to sort out rotation

November 11th, 2019

’s rehab is going well after undergoing surgery to address a bipartite patella in his left knee in September and is on track to start throwing off a mound in late November, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said on Monday on the first day of the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Ohtani's season ended on Sept. 11, as he elected to have the operation on his knee because it was bothering him as he was ramping up his throwing program. Ohtani didn’t pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, 2018, but he was throwing bullpen sessions before his knee surgery. Ohtani remains on track to finish his throwing program in mid-December, but the Angels haven’t said whether he’ll be ready to start the season.

Eppler also wouldn’t commit to the Angels using a six-man rotation with Ohtani, although it appears likely they would need spot starters at the very least with Ohtani expected to pitch roughly once a week and serve as the designated hitter three to four times a week.

“I’m going to wait until Shohei gets through everything he needs to get through,” Eppler said. “Today, he was playing catch at 120-140 feet, somewhere in that window, and he’s progressing to running with more weight exposed on that anti-gravity treadmill. He’s running with a little more weight-bearing and still on track to get on the mound potentially at the end of November.”

Ohtani, though, will give the Angels a much-needed boost to their rotation, as he posted a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts in 2018, striking out 63 batters in 51 2/3 innings en route to winning American League Rookie of the Year honors as a two-way star. Ohtani, 25, has batted .286/.351/.532 with 40 homers and 123 RBIs in 210 games as a DH over the past two seasons.

The Angels are expected to add at least two starters in the rotation to join Ohtani this offseason. The Angels have been heavily linked to the top free-agent starter in Gerrit Cole, and the industry consensus is that they’re going to be one of the more aggressive teams this winter as they try to improve the rotation.

“We’re going to be mindful with our resources and know that we do have the ability to be aggressive if we want to,” Eppler said. “We’ll see how things ultimately take shape. There’s a lot of winter left.”

Angels tidbits

• Catcher Max Stassi underwent surgery on his right hip, and Eppler said they’re not sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day. Eppler added that they believe they can get more out of Kevan Smith and Stassi next year. The Angels, though, could still look for another catcher to add to the mix this offseason.

• Infielder Zack Cozart is scheduled to start a hitting progression next week as he recovers from an operation to alleviate issues stemming from his left shoulder labrum surgery last year. Eppler said Cozart’s range of motion has improved enough to start swinging the bat.

• Right-hander Griffin Canning, who was shut down for the season on Aug. 22 with right elbow inflammation, has been going through his throwing program without any issues this offseason at Angel Stadium. Canning is expected to have a normal offseason and will be ready for Spring Training.